Leadership. It is probably the most valued characteristic. How you lead your life and how you lead others are synonymous. While on a college campus, it is commonplace to be convinced to take on a leadership position to boost your resume and we often take on too many responsibilities to be a good leader in any one position.

Throughout this school year, UF Hillel has focused on goal setting, mental health, and being agents of change. These are all aspects that surmise good leadership. To be an effective leader, as Michael Jackson famously said, “if you want to make the world a better place take a look at yourself and then make a change.” Rather than taking on a variety of positions to improve your leadership abilities, first focus on your capabilities, credibility, and confidence as a leader. Being able to self assess, self regulate, manage relationships, and communicate are elements necessary for effective leadership.

Self-assessment is the ability to recognize your emotions, strengths and weaknesses, values, and drivers and understand their effect on others. By assessing yourself whether, through journaling or meditation, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to reflect on who you were, are, and want to be. It's not enough to say you’re going to do something, you have to actively accomplish tasks. Actions speak louder than words.

Consider your strengths and weaknesses, are your strengths also your weaknesses? As you continue to develop who you are as a person, you’re simultaneously building transferable leadership skills. Once you identify your personal strengths and weaknesses, you can accommodate for those as a leader. If you know you’re a procrastinator, a not necessarily positive leadership characteristic, take this into account and when you know something is due, make in your calendar and tell yourself the entire project is due a few days before the actual date.

As we mature, our interests and passions mature. It’s important to recognize this evolution and encourage it to continue evolving. Further, by having regular self-reflections, you’re building self-confidence as you know who you are, both good and bad and you can constantly work on improving yourself.

Self-regulation is having the ability to appropriately manage your thinking, emotions, and behaviors, commonly known as discipline. Overreacting during stressful situations only breeds panic and chaos. Effective leaders understand how to manage a stressful situation and remain calm in the process. Again, comes into play here - if you are an easily panicked person, identify strategies and tools that help you stay calm, such as a stress ball, white noise, or exercising. By staying calm, you can remain positive and communicate clearly to your team.

Relationship Management. You don’t have to be a social butterfly who can talk to a wall to be a great leader, but you do need to be able to develop deep, trusting relationships with those you’re working with. Turning off your cell phone while meeting with your team, inviting them for a pool day, telling them about your weekend are all ways to deepen the relationship and build rapport. After all, if you’re trusting these people with assignments, you should be able to tell them about that Tindr date that went horribly wrong.

Communication is two-fold. There is verbal communication and nonverbal communication. Your body language and the way you speak take precedence over the words you’re actually speaking. My mom constantly tells me, “it’s not what you said, it’s how you said it.” Lack of communication, lack of effective communication to be more precise, is typically the root of problems between people.

To communicate effectively, be an engaged listener. It’s not so much as your response as you’re listening, sometimes people just need a soundboard. They don’t want advice or justifications, they just want to know their feelings are heard. Don’t redirect the conversation to compare situations, share empathy without focusing on yourself. Your body language speaks volumes: if you’re sitting with your arms and legs crossed, you’re silently telling the other person you’re closed off. Your facial expressions, body movements, eye contact, and tone of voice can communicate just exactly how you feel. When we’re nervous we tend to avoid eye contact and hesitantly approach the situation. As a leader, fake it ‘til you make it - keep your head high, shoulders back, and make eye contact. Assert yourself and you will feel your confidence boost.

As you develop these four aspects of effective leadership, you will not only improve the way you lead others, but how you lead yourself. Taking the time to self assess, having the ability to self regulate, forging meaningful relationships, and being able to communicate both verbally and nonverbally will allow you to be more in tune with who you are as a person, and therefore a leader.

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